FRISCO - A long, long time ago, we knew Jimmy Smith. He was a quiet young wide receiver in Dallas Cowboys camp, so intimidated by his surroundings that for quite some time, in the team's training camp dining room in Austin, he declined lunch.
Why? Because he was too shy to get clarification from the lunch lady when he misheard her explanation for what's for lunch as "donkey meat.''
Jimmy Smith, the 1992 second-round rookie from Jackson State, thought the Cowboys were trying to feed him "donkey meat.'' ... and wasn't quite bold enough or confident enough to ask again, at which he would've figured out that her accent was disguising the simple words, "turkey meat.''
It is that background that sets the stage for our bewilderment at Smith's trashing of Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper, a perennial Pro Bowler who has put up spectacular numbers in his almost-three seasons in Dallas, including in 2020, when largely without the benefit of QB Dak Prescott, he gave the Cowboys a team-leading 92 catches for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns.
But, Smith says, “I just wish there was a little more effort on Amari Cooper’s part. He is a guy who is so talented, but the lack of effort really, really gets under my skin.''
Smith speaking recently on FanSided’s The Matt Lombardo Show podcast, is saying Amari Cooper is "lazy''?
This much is true: Cooper is "laid-back.'' Some in Dallas have criticized him for not being more vocal in "demanding the ball'' - but those same critics have called other receivers who do just that "divas.''
Can Cowboys Defense Contain Herbert?
The Dallas Cowboys look to avoid an 0-2 start to the season.
Cowboys Illness Finalizes New Lineup for Chargers
Second-year undrafted free agent Terence Steele will start Sunday in place of suspended starter La'el Collins - and have to deal with Joey Bosa.
Cowboys at Chargers: The 'Here We Go Again' Trap
Does a dark cloud again hover over The Star?
Maybe Smith - who failed in Dallas after a dangerous and controversial intestinal illness and surgery but went on to become wildly successful with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he developed into a five-time Pro Bowler while forging a 13-year NFL career - should be viewed as someone who knows what he sees. And what he sees is Cooper "not trying hard enough.''
Or maybe, as it often is with players from previous generations (Smith is 52, Cooper 27) it's about the money. Indeed, Smith says that Cooper should do more, “Especially for what he’s getting paid,'' and adds of second-year receiver CeeDee Lamb, “He’s going to make guys who are making more money than him expendable. That’s what’s going to happen.”
Cooper makes $20 million a year (in a deal billed as worth $100 million but with a contractual escape hatch after 2021 that would leave Dallas with just $6 mil in dead money) and maybe that's really what rubs Smith the wrong way. But the Cowboys' view is that Cooper is a premium talent and a bright tactician who goes about his job with intellect rather than by screaming.
Amari Cooper is laid-back. Reserved. Something less than "demanding.'' In that regard, he is actually very much like the Jimmy Smith we knew back in 1992, the Jimmy Smith who we found to be sweet and quiet and endearing and for whom a few of us playfully had a nickname
"Donkey Meat,'' we called him.